THE WELL OF SACRIFICE

A bustling ninth-century Mayan city is the setting for this engrossing first novel. When 11-year-old Eveningstar Macaw is scavenging through the nearby jungle, looking for the rare herbs her mother, the healer Blue Quetzal, uses as medicines, she stumbles across a scouting party of invaders who have been pillaging nearby villages. Eveningstar races to warn her brother, the brave warrior Smoke Shell, and her quick-thinking leads to a Mayan victory, and the naming of her family to nobility. Eveningstar persuades the evil High Priest, Great Skull Zero, to spare the youngest of invaders, whom her family takes as a slave and then befriends; her unease at their family’s unexpected good fortune is validated when, at the death of the King Flint Sky God, Great Skull Zero orders six of the city’s bravest warriors to accompany the royal corpse, including her brother. Although she can’t prevent her brother’s death, or the reign of terror that Great Skull unleashes, she rises up to resist the evil that threatens to destroy them all. Eboch crafts an exciting narrative with a richly textured depiction of ancient Mayan society, without dulling any of its edges; the author captures the enlightened elements of Mayan culture—its sophisticated economy, strict legal code, and elaborate pantheon of gods—while also portraying its ritual human sacrifice. The novel shines not only for a faithful recreation of an unfamiliar, ancient world, but also for the introduction of a brave, likable, and determined heroine. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: April 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-90374-2

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1999

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RAMONA'S WORLD

Ramona returns (Ramona Forever, 1988, etc.), and she’s as feisty as ever, now nine-going-on-ten (or “zeroteen,” as she calls it). Her older sister Beezus is in high school, baby-sitting, getting her ears pierced, and going to her first dance, and now they have a younger baby sister, Roberta. Cleary picks up on all the details of fourth grade, from comparing hand calluses to the distribution of little plastic combs by the school photographer. This year Ramona is trying to improve her spelling, and Cleary is especially deft at limning the emotional nuances as Ramona fails and succeeds, goes from sad to happy, and from hurt to proud. The grand finale is Ramona’s birthday party in the park, complete with a cake frosted in whipped cream. Despite a brief mention of nose piercing, Cleary’s writing still reflects a secure middle-class family and untroubled school life, untouched by the classroom violence or the broken families of the 1990s. While her book doesn’t match what’s in the newspapers, it’s a timeless, serene alternative for children, especially those with less than happy realities. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16816-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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THE TIGER RISING

Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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